Community Volunteers Launches Turning Point Series

Jim Farrin '58, Walter Fortson, and Natasha Japanwala '14

On April 26th, Princeton AlumniCorps welcomed more than 30 guests to its inaugural Turning Point panel entitled “From Princeton to Prison to Purpose: The Story of Walter Fortson, Jim Farrin ’58, Natasha Japanwala ’14 and the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program.” Turning Point, a Community Volunteers initiative, brings together speakers with inspiring stories about what drives their passion for service. Each panel highlights a specific issue or need in the community.

Walter Fortson discussed his incarceration in a New Jersey state prison, and what sparked his desire to turn   his life around. Rutgers University Professor Donald Roden started a program to help inmates enroll as university students and took an interest in Walter.  “That was the first time in a long time that anybody had looked at me as a human being,” Walter said. “The compassion in his eyes for me really let me know that I had a second chance. That’s something I [will] never forget.”

Since his release, Walter has been admitted to Rutgers University, where he received the 2010 Rutgers Academic Excellence award, and was recently named a Truman Scholar. He has dedicated himself not only to improving his life, but also to helping others in similar situations turn their lives around.

Charlie Puttkammer ’58 founded the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance   Program which is dedicated to bringing Princeton students and community members to local prisons to tutor inmates. Charlie reached out to his classmate, Jim Farrin ‘58, to help run the program. While Jim was hesitant at first, a fortuitous encounter between his wife and a prison chaplain at Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility made Jim realize this was an opportunity to give back in a very significant way. Jim met with Al Kandell, Administrator at A.C. Wagner.  Jim recalls Al saying to him, “We need Princeton volunteers, and I can tell by looking at you, Jim, that you’re going to bring them.”

The next fall, volunteers from Princeton University began tutoring at the prison. Of the volunteers he has worked with, Jim said, “These young Princeton students… have such a wonderful sense of mission.” Now, as Jim looks to expand the Petey Greene Program to other universities and prisons, he and Walter have teamed up to start a program at Rutgers. AlumniCorps is seeking a community volunteer to help with this expansion plan.

Natasha Japanwala ’14 is a current volunteer with the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance program. She discussed her experience as a tutor with the program, as well as leading a Breakout Princeton trip to a women’s correctional facility in Oklahoma. “I feel like every time I go to a prison, I help someone in a small way,” Natasha said. “And to be very honest, I think they help me more than I help them. . . It’s been such a huge part of my education.”

Check out a video of the panel discussion or view a slideshow of the event.

For more information on the Community Volunteers program and to see current opportunities, please visit the program website at, or contact Rachel Benevento, Community Volunteers Program Manager at and keep an eye out for our next Turning Points program in the early Fall.


Community Volunteers Launches Exciting Partnerships with Local Nonprofits

Community Volunteers is excited to be partnering with several local nonprofits to offer five new substantive volunteer opportunities for Princeton alumni. Westminster Community Life Center, featured below, serves neighborhood families in the greater Trenton area through supplemental educational services and proves nutritious, hot meals to children who may not otherwise have a substantial dinner.  The Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program organizes Princeton students to help prison inmates learn basic academic skills, and SPLASH, a steamboat operated on the Delaware River, provides school children and other groups with environmental education and historical appreciation. We are excited to be working with these incredible organizations moving forward!

If you are an alum interested in using your professional skills and talents to help these great organizations, visit to view the latest opportunities and to learn more.


Spotlight on a Community Volunteers Partner Organization:

Westminster Community Life Center

Westminster Community Life Center serves to enrich the lives of neighborhood families in the greater Trenton area through supplemental educational services such as after school programming and early literacy intervention. Dana Dreibelbis ’78 (above), has been volunteering with the Center for several months. Dana shares with us below why he chose to get involved with this inspiring organization and how he plans to use his professional publishing skills to expand the capacity of the Center.

What motivated you to get involved with the Westminster Community Life Center?

With the youngest of my children in college, it was time for me to allocate my time in new ways. My goal was to put my Christian faith into action in a local service program. Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC), home of the Westminster Community Life Center, appealed to me with its longstanding record of leadership and outreach. Westminster is in an area of Trenton which faces a variety of challenges, including high crime rates, drug dealing, a low number of two-parent home settings, and extremely high drop-out rates in schools.

Can you describe the Center and your responsibilities there?

My work at Westminster Community Life Center has a variety of aspects. Being self-employed, I am able to carve out time to volunteer there after school on Wednesdays to provide homework assistance, reading enrichment activities, and assist with a food service. Kids who may not otherwise have a substantial dinner are fed a nutritious, hot meal.  The Center also has teen-level outreach programs, which offer a safe environment, coaching in life-skills, and SAT college preparation.

How are you using your career experience in publishing to help meet key needs of the organization?

The Center’s students produce writings and artwork that is collected as a bound package. The middle school students are producing a multimedia CD to promote constructive living and discourage drug use and gang membership, and the high school students are working on an HIV prevention project.
I am planning to help expand the scope of their publishing efforts through a new initiative. The current state of digital publishing (high quality production with very low costs to produce and distribute) enables us to produce small books and multimedia products of professional quality. Many if not all of these can be sold via channels such as Amazon. Irrespective of what may happen on the ‘sales’ front, all of the participants in this process will be honing skills that could lead to jobs in the publishing/media marketplace, and career paths that are important for the long-term health of Trenton.

Why should Princetonians take action through Community Volunteers?

Many people talk about wanting to make a difference but do not know where to go or what to do. By aligning with a reputable organization with a proven track record, one has the chance to be of service and learn more about various issues. In my case that has meant a greater understanding of the direct and indirect effects of urban problems, including the complexities and impact of racism, and the difficulties faced by youth in building positive lives while being confronted with obstacles such as joblessness and gangs.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer work?

For me, the best part about this kind of volunteering is that I have the opportunity to serve in both concrete and personal ways. I have been able to live out my faith in a positive, meaningful way while interacting with others. The relationships I am building with the staff, students, and parents, along with the supportive schools and community—all these relationships and interactions make my volunteer experience worthwhile.


 Interested in Becoming a Community Volunteer?

Westminster Community Life Center is looking for the following:

Fiscal Support Specialist: Assist with documenting in-house procedures and developing a procedures manual.

Human Resource Strategist: Work to initiate, develop and finalize an employee handbook for the Center

Grant Research Specialist: Research and identify applicable grants to support program objectives and general operating costs

To view the above opportunities and more, click here.

Living with Purpose: Upcoming Event!

Awaken Your Inner Activist!

Are you looking for meaningful ways to channel your talents? Come to the Princeton Senior Resource Center on March 2nd and hear from three extraordinary people who are living their dreams while solving tough social programs through an “encore career.”  Learn about their life-changing projects and discover ways to pursue your own passions while making a difference in the community.  The panel presentation will begin at 10:30a.m. and will be followed by a discussion and lunch sponsored by Springpoint Foundation.  Princeton AlumniCorps and VolunteerConnect will share opportunities for participants to get involved through local, skills-based volunteer opportunities.

To learn more about the panelists, who are Purpose Prize® honorees, and to register for this free event, hosted by the Princeton Senior Resource Center, click here:

To read more about this event in Princeton’s Town Topics, click here:


Living with Purpose

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., March 2nd

The Princeton Senior Resource Center

Suzanne Patterson Building, 45 Stockton Street

Princeton, NJ


Raise Your Hand If You Eat Food. Then Take Action!

We all eat food, but few of us care to think about what systems, policies, costs, and risks are associated with bringing that food to our tables. The production and consumption of food affects every aspect of our lives as individuals, as members of a local community and as agents of a global economy.

A former PP55 fellow in Boston slices fruit at a farmer's market.

In September 2010, Gordon Douglas MD ’55 and Sheila Mahoney began a conversation about food.

The Focus on Food initiative was conceived with the goal of cultivating Project 55 fellowship opportunities for recent Princeton graduates at organizations committed to food-related issues in this country. The issues range from obesity to farm factory pollution to food safety regulation to farm worker rights—all of which may be linked to our industrial food system, which is itself a product of government policies and business practices that support the production of vast quantities of low-priced, low-grade food, whatever the costs to the common good. As diverse and numerous as the issues may be, Focus on Food recognizes four broad areas of advocacy in today’s food movement: public health, environmental sustainability, social justice and animal welfare. Alumni have the opportunity to advance the issues in any one of these areas, whether by examining policy, promoting awareness or effecting change on the ground.


Take Action.

–   Are you an experienced professional? Put your principles into practice. Become an AlumniCorps Community Volunteer and donate your expertise to a food-related nonprofit.

–   Look at your own personal and professional networks. What organizations in your community are working on the food problem? Who might take a Project 55 Fellow or a skills-based AlumniCorps Community Volunteer?

–   Are you passionate about sustainable, healthy food? Help us to organize an educational panel or event for alumni in one of our AlumniCorps cities.

–   Are you a professional working in food and public health, social justice, the environment, or animal welfare? Contact us about speaking at an AlumniCorps seminar or panel for Project 55 fellows.

–   Join the conversation. Which of the four food system issues most concern you?  How can we start a dialogue? Click here to apply for membership in the AlumniCorps Focus on Food online discussion.

Do you need a job? Looking for ways to volunteer?

All Job Seekers: Visit the AlumniCorps Job Board today by logging into our website. Simply login to view & post jobs!

Princeton AlumniCorps is proud to offer our online job board as a resource for all partner organizations, alumni, and affiliates. Sign in today at Questions? Email to learn more!

All Volunteers:  Check out our organization page on to learn about opportunities to get involved in your area!

Volunteer your space for an event, become a web developer, a reporter, an editor, a Board member, or even a director of The Alumni Network! To see opportunities like this and more visit and search for the Princeton AlumniCorps’ page, or visit and click ‘Get Involved’.